I’m trying to write an article about the genetically modified salmon developed by AquaBounty. What I want to know is this: do salmon who are being forced to grow abnormally fast suffer? Fish are animals and they feel pain, although these factors are frequently ignored.

It’s the weekend before Christmas so it’s not the best time to find an ichthyologist to interview, a point brought home to me by the fact that the only “experts” who have contacted me have turned out to be “animal communicators” or “pet psychics.”

There is some overlap in these two areas, apparently, but while all pet psychics are animal communicators, not all animal communicators wish to be pigeon-holed as pet psychics.

Okay, fine.

On twitter, a number of people thought that the pet psychics were just finding me at random, much like people who stop me to admire my aura. (No, really). Then it was pointed out that, although unrelated, a lengthy post I wrote explaining freak magnetism actually contains the term, “biblical ichthyology.” Also that this particular post should be in the reader favorites roundup.

So, the salmon article is on hold. The reader favorites list is updated. I have instant-content for today. Everybody wins! Except possibly those salmon…

The Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery of Art is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary with a series of events. On Friday, artist Cai Guo-Qiang got to blow up a 40 foot tall evergreen tree on the National Mall.


Cai, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is an accomplished contemporary artist who, among other things, designed the opening and closing ceremony fireworks for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The artist was in town to celebrate both the Sackler’s 25th and the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies program.

My favorite promo was courtesy of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Gallery, which posted this on it’s facebook page:

If you think the main problem with Christmas trees is that they don’t blow up, we’ve got the thing for you. Back in 2004, the Hirshhorn and the Sackler teamed up to present the incendiary work of Cai Guo-Qiang: www.hirshhorn.si.edu/bio/directions-cai-guo-qiang.

Today at 3 pm out in front of the Freer, the artist stages one of his “Explosion Events,” when a 40-foot pine erupts in a shower of sparks and a cascade of smoke. Why? Because the Sackler turns 25 and Art in Embassies turns 50. (And with that many candles, a cake can get kind of spitty.)

Intrigued, on Friday afternoon a friend and I wandered across the Mall at the appointed time and joined the sizable crowd gathered along the north side of the Freer Gallery.

The Washington Post has a video of the artist describing his intentions, interspersed with footage of the actual explosions. It’s not the same as being there, but here it is:

I didn’t take pictures during the event, because I preferred to pay attention to everything that was happening, but I did snap a couple quick shots as the smoke cleared. I jokingly posted this on instagram + twitter with the caption, “It’s nice to see the “Lost” Smoke Monster gainfully employed again.”

Unfortunately, that gave some of my followers the impression that I wasn’t impressed.

Although the final result wasn’t quite as “inky” as I imagined it to be, I rather enjoyed the spectacle. The anticipation, the interested crowd, the press, the fact that they actually got permission to blow some shit up on the Mall – these were all cool to me.

As a bonus, the whole thing was executed so that the tree wouldn’t be damaged and they’ll be replanting it somewhere to live out it’s days in non-exploding peace.

Oh, hey! The State Department website has a page titled, Pyrotechnic Event.

Their video is from the Freer side, so you can see the explosions as well as the large crowd gathered back behind the barricades on the Mall, which I think sets the scene a bit better than the Post’s video.

Video streaming by Ustream

Parks and Recreation has done two fantastic sendups of public/community radio. I realize that making fun of public radio is like shooting fish in a barrel – it’s for that very reason that most spoofs just aren’t funny. I think most of these efforts fail because they hitch all of their jokes to the easy targets, such as the (over)enunciation standards of NPR or Pacifica. Or, they try to go for “easy laughs” by trying to skewer the Left, but end up replicating the oppressive sexist structures of corporate radio that NPR exists to stand against in the first place.

At the very least, they aren’t as absurdly, unintentionally funny as community radio can be all on it’s own earnest self. And that’s the key to what makes Parks and Recreations take on it so funny – they get it that the people who do this kind of radio are so deeply invested in a very romantic idea of the power of community radio, with a little ill-considered corporate marketing in the mix just to keep things bizarre and off-kilter, and they know how to take those elements and make them hyper-realistic without being cruel.

Leslie Knope’s appearance on Wamapoke County Public Radio on last week’s episode, “Pawnee Commons,” was pitch-perfect.

embedded link: “Pawnee Commons” into

After we disposed of the body & cleaned up the bloody crime scene, NeighborCat and I agreed to be friends. The portly squirrel whose entrails NeighborCat had strung so festively around my patio will not be missed by many.

Sandy, the impending Frankenstorm, is bad for all kinds of reasons. It’s also annoying, in that I couldn’t’t hang the ghosts I made last year out on the porch. I’ve realized I can hang them in my office window and light them up so they look super-creepy from outside. Bonus: the only window I could hang them up in is the window where Ghost Cat makes his appearances.

It’s only a matter of time before I forget that they’re in there and scare myself witless.

If it’s the worst thing that happens during the storm, I’ll be fine with that.
We’ve stashed the stuff in the yard, filled the water containers, tested the emergency radio, checked on the strategic bourbon reserve, charged the kindles, and all that other stuff that Native Floridians are born knowing how to do.

I suspect at the very least we’re in for a lengthy power outage. The most fun part of any power outage is this:

We have two bathrooms. The one downstairs is below the level of the city sewer connection so it has an electric pump. When the power goes out, the 1st thing I do is grab a flashlight and go downstairs and pull that door shut so that I don’t forget and use that toilet.

Later, I forget I did this and go downstairs for candles or one thing or another, see the shut door and scare myself witless wondering what sort of ghost or serial killer snuck in and pulled the door shut. It’s a pocket door, it can’t just blow shut.

I’ve usually just scared myself witless happening upon the lifesize sarcophagus at the bottom of the basement stairs. The one that’s always there.

Then I remember why the door is shut.

Then I laugh at myself.

Then I do it again 2 or 3 more times over the course of the evening.

I do this every time. Every. Time.


As I was walking back from my local farmer’s market this morning, drivers kept honking and waving. Pedestrians and cyclists were also happy to see me, it seemed.

I was thinking, “Wow, the neighborhood is super-extra-friendly today!”

It was only when I was close to home and a woman waiting to cross at the light accused me of being a muslim-loving Holocaust denier that I realized my neighborhood probably wasn’t effusively excited about my fab cherry tomato haul. They’re pretty great tomatoes, but I suspect it’s the large Obama yard sign I was carting home that was catching their attention. I’m not the sharpest cheddar in the cheesebox before I’ve had all of my morning coffee.

[embedded video: coughs & sneezes]

I can’t recall ever being sneezed on. Not by another human being, anyway. Horses, dogs and cats? Yes. Another person? No.

Not until Friday night. I was minding my own business, sitting in the front row of a packed concert hall, listening to Neil Gaiman speak at George Mason University’s Fall for the Book Festival, when the gentleman seated behind me suddenly blasted the back of my head with a great honking snootful of mucous.

These things happen. Sure. Yes. Absolutely. No malicious intent. Just a sneeze.

His wife made a half-hearted attempt to discretely wipe some of the snot from my hair. Or maybe she was just trying to rub it in, thinking I wouldn’t notice. I’m not entirely certain, as I was trying to ignore them and pay attention to the person speaking at the podium a few feet in front of me.

Here is a dramatic re-enactment of the aftermath of this event, as I now remember it.

[embedded video: ghostbusters]

Then it happened again on Sunday night while Michael Chabon was talking.

Then it happened again while I was listening to David Byrne and Dave Lowery speak at a Smithsonian event Monday night.

Oddly, this doesn’t outrages because of the yuck factor or the amount of time I’ve spent washing my hair this weekend. Accidents happen. This annoys me because I’m once again on a very high dose of a very unpleasant drug designed to cut my immune system off at the knees and at each of the 3 public events I chose as calculated risks there was a single solitary sneezing guy – and each time, that guy was seated right behind me? How is that possible? What are the odds?

I guess it would be weirder if it had been the same guy each time.

I’ve upended my life to minimize the amount of interaction I have with germyness for the next few weeks. I’ve stocked up on hand sanitizer. I’ve rearranged my life to avoid Metro and small children and teeming crowds as much as humanly possible. And yet? Old dudes with weaponized nasal passages seem to be homing in on me like Jack Ryan after the Red October.

To be fair, avoiding Metro and small children and teeming crowds is pretty much my avocation, but I’m too tired to work up a funny line of persecution and inconvenience and indignation, so let’s just pretend that in the day-to-day, my favorite activity is taking small children to big events via Metro, where we lick the handrails and seatbacks to pass the time along the way.

I’m lacking a punchline today. Here, have a sneezy baby panda, instead:

[embedded video: sneezing panda]

update: comments are being harshly moderated to eliminate any links to sneeze fetish sites because, although my moderation criteria is pretty liberal, some of the stuff that’s been left in the comments crosses some serious lines. Also: yuck.

Each time I try to summon words to describe seeing Aung San Suu Kyi speak in person, I fail.

So instead, I’m posting a video of a bulldog on a trampoline, because I can’t stop watching it.

[embedded video]